Alcohol: The Forgotten Piece of Substance Misuse | The Kennedy Forum

Alcohol: The Forgotten Piece of Substance Misuse
March 9, 2023

With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, what better time to call attention to our country’s relationship with alcohol. Data from 2020 from the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors indicates that 22% of people in the U.S. binge drank within the past month, 6.4% were heavy alcohol users within the past month, and 28.3 million people aged 12 years and older reported having an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Such widespread substance misuse – which was only compounded upon during the pandemic – requires our attention and concern. We must begin to better include alcohol in our discussions and solutions around substance misuse. 

Many of The Kennedy Forum’s recommended policy solutions to address misuse of other substances also serve to address alcohol misuse and alcohol use disorder. Those include prevention via social-emotional learning curriculums and mental health screenings; increasing access to quality care via integrated care, telehealth, and growth of the provider workforce; and increasing access to medication-assisted treatment which can treat alcohol use disorder though is commonly thought of in terms of opioid use disorder. Including alcohol use in these solutions and conversations will ensure Americans coping with this form of substance misuse are not left behind while our young people have the tools they need to avoid misuse later in life.

Our founder, Patrick J. Kennedy, is proudly participating in Sober St. Patrick’s Day, an annual event held in New York City. Their mission is to reclaim the true spirit of St. Patrick’s Day by changing the perception and experience from an occasion for binge drinking and other misuse of alcohol to a celebration of the richness of Irish culture and the legacy of St. Patrick. The alcohol misuse around St. Patrick’s Day is well documented: In 2018, pubs and bars saw a 57% increase in customers on St. Patrick’s day compared to the prior weekend, compared to only a 7% increase in visits to restaurants. Register to celebrate with Patrick Kennedy here.

March 20 through 26 is National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week. Check out the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s website for activities, facts, and more to commemorate the week.